This past 27 April, Dr. Frank Coulson of Ohio State University gave a lecture on a manuscript he discovered in the Walsh Library. Coulson believes that Walsh Library MS Item 14, a 15th century manuscript fragment listed by Digital Scriptorium as a copy of Ovid’s Metamorphoses with marginal commentary, is actually a 14th century copy of the Metamorphoses with a marginal translation written by Giovanni de Virgilio. Giovanni de Virgilio was a 14th century Paduan scholar who was educated in Bologna and who was commissioned by the Studium of Bologna to lecture on Lucan, Statius, Ovid, and Virgil (for whom he had a particular love, as one can surmise from his chosen name.) Only his Ovid lectures survive, along with a few of his other translations and commentaries. We’ve some insight into Giovanni’s personal life, including his friendship and extended correspondence with Dante Alighieri. Indeed, Giovanni even wrote an epitaph for Dante’s tomb. [Read on for more on Professor Coulson’s talk] Continue reading
This past 11 April, the Center for Medieval Studies hosted its annual “Compatible Careers” event. Each year, the Center asks alumni to share their experiences of finding jobs after their graduations that go beyond the traditional academic/tenure-tracked path. The perennial question for graduate students nearing their graduations is: “what next?” To study what you love is a joy, but the fact of the matter is that, eventually, one needs to realize what one wants to do for a living. This question haunts many a student at night, especially those who would elect a non-academic path. The purpose of this annual workshop is to show students that taking alternate paths is not only possible, but it may even result in finding a better fit for them. This year’s speakers represent a wide array of careers that show promise and reward the creative medievalist willing to look beyond the usual choices presented to them. [Read on for more about the 2017 Compatible Careers Workshop] Continue reading
Our coverage of the 37th Annual Conference continues! Read on for more. Continue reading
This past 25 March, the Center held its 37th Annual Conference of the Center for Medieval Studies. This year’s conference, “The Generative Power of Tradition: A Celebration of Traditio, 75 Years,” explored both the power of tradition in producing new ideas and movements and the role and history of Traditio in the humanities.
This year’s conference was divided into two panel sessions and two roundtables, with Father Joseph T. Lienhard, S.J., beginning the conference with a brief history of Traditio’s origin, its current role in facilitating discourse in numerous disciplines in the humanities, and its future under both Fordham and Cambridge University Press. [Read on for our full coverage of the 37th Annual Conference of the Center for Medieval Studies] Continue reading
This past 6 December, 2016-2017 Medieval Fellow Dr. John McCaskey delivered his lecture “Inductio: The Medieval Transmission and Humanist Solution to the Scandal of Philosophy,” concluding this semester’s Medieval Studies lecture series. Addressing the textual transmission of the concept of inductive reasoning from Aristotle and Socrates through Scholastic thinkers and into the Renaissance, McCaskey presented medieval thinkers as reinterpreting the Aristotelian definition of inductive reasoning so as to create a new form of philosophical analysis, which, though perhaps contrary to the original intention of Aristotle, stood as a unique form unto itself.
While Aristotle and, later, the Italian humanists who reexamined his work and thought, understood induction to be a process of enumeration, scholastics and Neo-Platonists, McCaskey believes, understood induction to be a process equating to deduction. According to McCaskey, medieval thinkers approached inductive reasoning as a process of narrowing down the nature of what something is by what traits it shares in common with something else. Classical and Renaissance thinkers, conversely, approached induction as defining what something is by understanding what it does in relation to what other similar things do. Using the example of magnets attaching or not attaching themselves to an iron rod, McCaskey described this difference by showing that we can define a magnet according to its appearance being similar to other magnets or according to whether a magnet actually is attracted to the iron rod. The difference is in how we define a magnet: is it a thing that does what all magnets are supposed to do, or is a magnet that which appears to be a magnet, regardless of actual function? This difference in interpretation between Classical and Humanist and Medieval thinkers McCaskey largely attributes to alterations and items lost in the 500 years of translation of Aristotelian and Socratic texts as they made their way from Greek to Syriac, to Arabic, then Hebrew, and finally Latin.
The Centre would like to thank Dr. McCaskey for his lecture and for ending the semester’s lecture series on such an engaging note.
On September 30th, Katherine Briant of Fordham’s Center for Medieval Studies curated a viewing of medieval manuscripts and early printed books in the Mertz Library’s Rare Book and Folio Room as part of the first day of this year’s Biduum Latinum, which was hosted by the New York Botanical Garden. Consisting of thirteen books of botany and medicine that span the late 12th to mid-16th centuries, Katherine’s exhibit presented examples of some of the most influential scientific texts of the Middle Ages in forms and copies ranging from the startlingly beautiful to the equally startlingly practical.
Two Circa Instans copies were displayed, one from the late 12th century (QK 99 .P575 1190) and the other from the last quarter of the 13th century (QK 99 .P575 1275). The former, much more practical in its appearance and having been well-used, contrasted with the latter copy, which was obviously meant to be admired beyond the contents of its leaves.
The contrast gave the exhibit’s audience a more complete understanding of the space these texts inhabited in medieval intellectual culture and manuscript culture. While of a more practical nature than many other kinds of texts, medical and botanical books were still decorated, showing the simultaneous importance of both the knowledge that the book was meant to transmit and the presentation of that knowledge on the manuscript page.
Also of note were two other works Katherine presented and described. The first, a medical compilation from 13th-century France (R128 .C65), shows the ways in which recorded medical knowledge was expanded and commented upon by readers who added ample notes and marginalia over time to the text. Another text, a 1565 Venice edition of Mattioli’s Commentarii, was paired with an original woodblock used to create the illustration of Eruca Sativa (Rocket) for that plant’s entry in the book. The audience had the chance to compare the image produced in the text with the mirror image carved into the woodblock, imagining the action of pressing the inked block into the page and visualizing the physicality that early modern book production entailed.
This book viewing was a wonderful way to end the first day of the Biduum Latinum, and it provided participants with the opportunity to see the material objects that transmitted the botanical knowledge featured in the bootcamp’s second day. The Center would like to congratulate Katherine on her successful exhibition and would like to extend a grateful thanks to the New York Botanical Gardens for their warm welcome.
This past 30th of September, Dr. Robin Fleming gave a lecture in the New York Botanical Gardens’ Mertz Library as part of the first day of this year’s Biduum Latinum on the Roman importation of plants and animals to Britain during its brief time as a part of the Empire and the impact this practice had on Britain’s material history. Fleming began her “Vanishing plants, animals, and places: Britain’s transformation from Roman to Medieval” with a lament that the people she most often wants to learn more of in historical accounts and existing records are not actually mentioned by or visible in those very records. To find out more about those who are silent in the written record, she went to look to the physical, archaeological evidence of their actions and, specifically, what they did with Roman imports. We know from the written record that certain spices, fruits, vegetables, and even livestock were imported, but it is from the archaeological evidence that Fleming observed what these things were used for and by whom.
Looking to the period of Roman withdrawal from Britain in the 4th-5th centuries CE, Fleming put forward that the over-all impact this withdrawal had was a material one. Noting a trend in the study of the de-Romanization of Britain, which presents the Roman withdrawal as having only a political and social effect on the urban elite, Fleming presented ample archaeological evidence that the immediately felt impact of the lack of a Roman presence in Britain was tied specifically to the loss of consistent Roman imports, which had penetrated every level of British society. From the rural villager to the proud owner of a country villa and the urban elite, Roman imports formed a substantial, or, at least, noticeable portion of one’s diet. From chicken to coriander, Roman imports can be seen in the diets of peoples spanning every level of the social spectrum. Fleming bases this on evidence collected from excavated cesspits found across Romanized Britain. Fleming believes even some native plants such as strawberries, thought to be inedible by British Celts, were, via Roman influence and interest in this exotic new taste sensation, introduced to consuming these berries on a daily basis.
The Roman influence did not end with the expansion of the British diet. The Romans brought also such practices as grafting to the Isles, and Roman land-owning elite had constructed massive granaries to hold, in as conspicuous as way as possible, their vast wealth of food, harvested from ever-expanding fields of what were previously grasslands or floodplains. Showing that influence was not unidirectional, the Roman villa of Britain was itself constructed in a similar manner as a rural villager’s home, albeit at a much grander scale with some distinctly Roman decoration. The archaeological record shows thatched roofs, straw-covered pounded dirt floors, and sparse tiling display what it was the Roman landed elite called home, in a far cry from what their fellow citizens of a similar social standing would have known on the continent. We even see, in Kent, a small port attached to a brewery obviously meant to export British beer to the continent.
What, then, came of these Roman introductions after the withdrawal? From the archaeological evidence, Fleming believes most of the plants and animals imported died off without continuous Roman cultivation and husbandry and constant replacements being brought in by ship. Most of these alien flora and fauna were not kept in large enough quantities to spread naturally from the abandoned gardens or breed beyond the confines of Roman hunting grounds. In fact, we see a sharp spike in the consumption of foraged food after the period of Roman rule comes to an end in Britain. The plants and animals currently thought of as British staples were reintroduced in the Middle Ages with the reemergence of trade with the continent and the import of materials and people coinciding with the rise of monasticism (and monastic gardens) in the Isles. However, this should not be taken as indicative of a decline in the health of the average Britain, as, in lieu of landlords demanding the majority of what one produced, families were able to grow food entirely for themselves, adding what was foraged to that and resulting in a, generally, healthier individual, as shown by the larger, more robust skeletons we see dating to after the Roman withdrawal.
Noting the anthropological theory that, while people make things, things also make people, Fleming presented the Roman rule and withdrawal from Britain as signifying two major shifts in British material history. As the needs of cultivated plants and livestock require humans to alter their own schedules to provide the time to meet those needs, and humans often base their own social standing on their acquisition and holding of such things, shifts in material history inevitably denote shifts in political and social history. Fleming’s intertwining of textual sources and archaeological evidence provides a window into how exactly material changes alter every facet of human society and interrelations.
The Center would like to graciously thank Dr. Fleming for beginning the Biduum on an excellent note, and the New York Botanical Gardens for hosting the event and providing the perfect environment for our study of Roman and Medieval botany.
Every year, students at Fordham University have the unique opportunity to walk the Camino de Santiago through the study abroad course Study Tour: Medieval Spain. This summer, graduate student Alexa Amore (MA Program, Medieval Studies) accompanied Professor David Myers, chaperones Alex Egler, Louisa Foroughi, and Rachel Podd, and a group of 24 undergraduate students (Fordham’s largest Camino group to date!) on the medieval pilgrimage route from León to Santiago de Compostela. The group was also thrilled to be joined in Spain by Katrine Funding Højgaard, a former visiting student from Denmark in Fordham’s graduate program in Medieval Studies.
As a medievalist with interests in pilgrimage studies and art history, Alexa was eager to follow the traditional pilgrimage route through Spain and to adopt the lifestyle of a pilgrim, or peregrina. She opted to travel as light as possible, leaving her laptop at home and bringing only a twelve pound backpack and camera with her for the entire trip. Alexa arrived in Spain several days before the official start of the study tour in order to spend some time in Barcelona and Madrid. Among the highlights from this part of her journey, she visited several famous Gaudí buildings including the Sagrada Familia as well as the National Art Museum of Catalonia, which houses one of the most important collections of romanesque frescoes in the world.
She also visited all three major museums in Madrid–the Prado, the Reina Sofia, and the Thyssen Bornemisza–and took a day trip to Toledo in order to see several former synagogues and mosques, including El Cristo de la Luz. “As an undergraduate I took a class on Spanish art that covered everything from visigothic churches to Picasso’s Guernica,” she explained “so I was so excited to see all of these works of art in person.”
When she arrived in León, Alexa started to feel nervous about the two weeks of hiking that lay ahead of her. “I didn’t do much training ahead of time because I was so busy during the semester… I wasn’t sure how it was going to work out, but I was determined to walk the whole way on my own two feet!”
For Alexa, the best part of the pilgrimage was the journey itself. She especially enjoyed the tiny villages along the Camino “where there was absolutely nothing going on and it was just peaceful and life was incredibly simple for the people living there. It was so nice to arrive, take off my shoes, and just sit and look at the sky and the mountains, listen to the birds and watch the sun set. And after a really long day’s walk, you just feel like you earned every minute of that stillness.”
After the long-awaited arrival in Santiago de Compostela with the Fordham group, Alexa travelled south to spend a few days visiting Córdoba, Granada and Seville. 28 long days on the road later, she was happy to return to the United States. “It didn’t take long for me to realize that all along, I was actually on a pilgrimage to New York City,” she explained. “I really missed home, but I was so glad that I left it all behind in order to gain a fresh perspective on where I am in my life now and where I’m going in the future.”
For more on the Camino de Santiago, visit the Fordham peregrinos’ ongoing digital project, Mapping the Camino: The Student’s Guide to the Camino de Santiago, which Alexa founded along with Professor Myers and the Fordham peregrinos of 2016.
Alexander Profaci delivered his presentation, “Old French and the Tragedy of Norman Historiography,” based on a chapter from his thesis. Comparing the Gesta Normanorum Duco with the earliest version of the Chronique des ducs de Normandie, Alexander presented the 13th century Chronique, in its lack of heroic or religiously inspirational imagery, as the presentation of Norman history as a tragic retrospective of Norman independence. David’s presentation, “Twisted Lines: Genealogical Prophecy and Historiography in Sir Thomas Malory’s Morte Darthur,” put forward that Malory’s famous “Month of May” passage portrays both his hopes for the future return of the chivalric ideal and his resignation that there is no certainty in the future. While royal lineage was often used to present history as stable and predictable enough to provide a more certain view of the future, Malory’s genealogy of Arthur depicts a less certain view, as Arthur left no effective heir, nor did he, himself, legitimate, questioning the supposed stability of royal lineage and its ability to maintain a more stable future. Anna Lukyanova’s “Consecracio Regis: The Making of Kings, Political Liturgy, and Cross Cultural Exchange in the Medieval Latin East” explored possible influences or sources for the development of the ceremony of the coronation of the Latin kings of Jerusalem. Looking at the similarities between the oaths sworn by the king of Jerusalem and those sworn by the Byzantine emperor upon his own crowning and the fact that kings of Jerusalem were anointed, which was a common practice in Western Europe but not done in Constantinople, Anna sees the ceremony in Jerusalem as a hybrid of Byzantine and Western European rituals, displaying a level of cultural interaction between the Kingdom of Jerusalem and its Greek Orthodox neighbour. The final presentation of the first panel was that given by Scotland Long, “Medieval Authorship in 15th Century Castilian Romance,” in which he examined the variances between manuscripts and printed editions of the Cronica Saracina, a Spanish retelling of the 711 Islamic invasion of Iberia. One of the numerous differences between copies of the two versions he compared was a greater emphasis on the aspect of holy war in the printed editions, corresponding with the Reconquista.
The second panel began with Heather Hill presenting, “Exploring Place in the French of Italy: Mid-Range Reading as a Model for Digital Medieval Mapping,” in which she explained the process and methodology employed behind the creation of a digital map for the French of Italy website. She introduced the concept of mid-range reading, which, contrary to close or distant reading, requiring critical analysis and a macrocosmic discussion of text types, respectively, looks at individual works, words, and place descriptions, but also for over-arching trends in source material. This method of research, Heather related, was the ideal method for preparing a digital map based on medieval sources. The second presentation was Alexa Amore’s “Animated by Pious Zeal: The Cult of Carts and the Oxen of Laon Cathedral,” introducing not only what the concept of the cult of carts was to non-art historians, but also the far-ranging impact this practice had on forms of pilgrimage in Laon, Amiens, and Chartres. Inspired by a miraculous bovine having appeared just as it was needed to aid in hauling stone from a quarry to Laon cathedral after it was destroyed in a communal uprising, the cult of carts was a pilgrimage practice that had pilgrims seeking penance by pulling carts loaded with stone. The cathedral of Laon is decorated with a number of statues of oxen, remarkably accurate in their presentation, looking down upon the crowds from the cathedral spires, marking this miraculous event and linking it intrinsically with the continued existence of the cathedral of Laon. The final presentation was delivered by Alexandra Wright titled, “’I feel but hunger and thirst for you,’ Spiritual Food, Eroticism, and Queer Desire in Augustine’s Confessions.” Exploring Augustine’s presentation of his own desire, Alexandra showed how, as Augustine aged, his desires were never truly fulfilled. This tension is carried out through his childhood, in which he desired food even when he did not need it, through his adolescence and early adult life, when he desired sex but was never satisfied by it. These desires are, in his later years, transferred to a love of God, and the absolution he finds replaces the fulfilling of his desire.
Congratulations to the class of 2016 for their excellent contributions to their fields and to the Centre. Well done!
Session I: 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Chair: Nicholas Paul
- Alexander Profaci (MVST MA ’16, moving on to the PhD program in History at Johns Hopkins University):
“Old French and the Tragedy of Norman Historiography”
- David Smigen-Rothkopf (MVST MA ’16, moving on to the PhD program in English at Fordham University):
“Twisted Lines: Genealogical Prophecy and Historiography in Sir Thomas Malory’s Morte Darthur”
- Anna Luykanova (MVST MA ’16, moving on to the PhD program in History, UNC Chapel Hill):
“Consecracio Regis: The Making of Kings, Political Liturgy, and Cross Cultural Exchange in the Medieval Latin East”
- Scotland Long (MVST MA ’16, moving on to the PhD program in Spanish, University of Pennsylvania):
“Medieval Authorship in 15th century Castilian Romance”
Saturday Brunch: 1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.
Session II: 2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Chair: Alex Novikoff
- Heather Hill (MVST MA ’16, moving on to the MS program in Library and Information Science at the Pratt Institute):
“Exploring Place in the French of Italy: Mid-Range Reading as a Model for Digital Medieval Mapping”
- Alexa Amore (MVST MA ’16, moving on to the MA program in Art History, Case Western Reserve University):
“Animated by Pious Zeal: The Cult of Carts and the Oxen of Laon Cathedral”
- Alexandra Wright (MVST MA ’16, moving on to the MS program in Library Science at the University of North Texas):
“‘I feel but hunger and thirst for you’: Spiritual Food, Eroticism, and Queer Desire in Augustine’s Confessions”
Cake and Champagne Reception: 3:30 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
This conference is dedicated to the memory of three wonderful teachers:
Louis Pascoe SJ
The Center for Medieval Studies thanks the Graduate Student Association for their contribution to this conference.
The 36th Annual Conference of the Center for Medieval Studies took place this past 5-6 March in the Lincoln Center Campus. The aim of the conference this year was to explore the employ, design, intended use, and, most of all, the physicality of the manuscript as a medium. While studies of English and French manuscript use and culture formed the majority of the presentations, this year’s conference saw also presentations on German and Irish texts, the interplay between Byzantine Greek and medieval Latin, Jewish and Arabic texts and languages and Buddhist texts in translation between Korean and Japanese texts. Aside from analyses of textual content, promising new methodologies of manuscript research and study were also brought up that look at illuminations, the social context in which a text was produced, and the material composition of a manuscript with the intention of showing how the field of manuscript study is rapidly expanding.
The first day of the conference began with a plenary lecture, “Medieval Mediations” delivered by Jessica Brantley of Yale University that served as an excellent summary of the purpose of the conference and provided the foundation of what we mean when we say that manuscripts served, and continue to serve, as a medium. Showing, by the presentation of scrolls in medieval art, that medieval peoples were just as keenly aware of the roles codices and parchment rolls played in their societies and private lives as mediums as we are of our own media, Brantley presented the shifts from parchment roll to codex as a more dramatic one than what is heralded as the most dramatic shift in book studies traditionally: the advent of the printing press. From this lecture began the first concurrent session of the conference, with panels split between “Manuscripts in the Digital Age,” “Materiality: Beyond Parchment,” and “Organizing Knowledge.”
After lunch began the second plenary lecture by Kathryn Rudy, hailing from the University of St Andrews. Her presentation, “Dirty Books: Approaches to Measuring Reader Response in the Middle Ages,” took a novel approach to seeing what medieval readers were most interested in reading. Many surviving manuscripts are, fundamentally, filthy. They are covered with the dirt and grime of their readers’ hands where they were held open along the edges of each page. By analyzing the reflectivity levels of each page with a device used to measure suntans, Rudy was able to quantify the depth and severity of individual stains on each page. By doing thus, she was able to quantify the interest individual readers took in different parts of books of hours. Relaying a number of examples, including a rather amusing anecdote about a medical text a few
pages of which were stained with varying volumes of blood near glosses saying how some treatment methods didn’t work, Rudy demonstrated that we are able to see what parts of different books appealed the most to their contemporary reader(s). After this lecture, the conference broke again into concurrent sessions. These panels were:”Manuscript as Agent,” “Transmitting the Rule,” “Authors and Scribes: Making Meaning,” and “Format and Meaning.” The first day concluded with a flash session in which six scholars presented in mere minutes their own research ideas roughly relating to the subject matter of the conference, leaving the audience’s minds, already begging for mercy, spinning well into the evening.
The second day began with the final plenary lecture of the conference, delivered by Andrew Taylor of the University of Ottawa. His presentation “Freedom and the Portable Reader: 1992 and 1281” compared the programs we load into our portable digital devices and the book collections of medieval readers to illustrate how much we can learn of an individual person’s psychological state and intellectual interests by looking at what they read. Looking at the book collection of the priest William of Winchester, Taylor constructed a narrative episode of William’s life around the documentary evidence of his having been punished for an affair with a nun and his interests as presented by his book collection, which suggested he was interested in music and the noble pastime of hawking. After this lecture, the final concurrent session unfolded with three panels: “The Body in the Manuscript,” “Compendia,” and “Manuscripts Between Languages: East and West.”
While the physicality of manuscripts was a common topic of the panels and lectures of the conference, how readers used their manuscripts and new methodologies in how scholars may approach texts as sources of information about their original owners and producers seemed to steal the show. Numerous thought-provoking and innovative ideas were introduced to an audience that was both receptive to new ideas and ever questioning of what we think we know. The Center would like to thank again all those who presented their evocative works and ideas during the conference and those who worked tirelessly behind the scenes for this year’s great success.
By Kevin Vogelaar